@MaryJBlige offers new perspective on 'My Life II'

December 3, 2011

When Mary J. Blige released her breakthrough album “My Life” in 1994, recording a sequel to the intensely personal collection of songs was never her goal or intention.

It was supposed to be a one-and-done project, and for 17 years and through seven more albums, that’s exactly what it was: a stand-alone, Grammy-nominated effort that put Blige on the charts and in the minds of a growing legion of worldwide fans.

“I never wanted to do another ‘My Life’ album,” Blige said.

Last year, however, Blige took a step back, looked at her life and the world surrounding it, and decided it was time to revisit “My Life” with a fresh perspective.

And so “My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1)” was born. The follow-up album that was never supposed to happen was released Nov. 21, and Blige offered a simple explanation as to why she looked at her past to help her develop the music of the future.

She discovered there was a common thread — a consistency — that bridged the first “My Life” album to the follow-up.

“(In) the first ‘My Life’ album, there was a lot going on in our lives and it wasn’t all positive,” Blige said during a chat prior to an album launch party at The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Resort. “So there has been a lot of growth and evolution since then. The beautiful thing about now is that we can look back at that album and look at how strong we are and how much we’ve conquered and come through, and that’s the reason for (‘My Life II’) now.”

Although songs on the original album focused more on Blige’s early life and personal struggles with clinical depression, drug and alcohol abuse and an abusive relationship, the new album speaks to problems affecting many people.

The hip-hop scented collection of R&B songs, featuring a veritable who’s who of modern music including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Timbaland and Alicia Keys, is about the “struggle to get to the next level,” she explained.

“(It’s about) the breakthrough and then the trial, so now at a time like this, when there’s recession and war, people need that healing and that love and that understanding from a record,” she offered. “Music used to make people feel great, and that’s why now, because it’s time.”

Although the music is personal, Blige admits it connects with her fans because many of them have been through the same trials and tests she endured as a child and as an emerging artist.

Critics have already heaped praise on “My Life II,” and more than one has suggested the new album offers competition for the original as to which is the better product. Blige bristled at the thought the new album is competing with the old one. She made it clear that the first album was — and always will be — a very special project.

“It was never meant to be a competition,” she said firmly. “It was only meant to be an extension of the first ‘My Life’ album, because there is no competition for the first ‘My Life’ album.”

Blige, 40, is a four-time Grammy Award-winner who came from a broken home in New York. Her father was a jazz musician who divorced Blige’s mother and then abandoned Blige and her sister.

At 17, Blige recorded an Anita Baker hit in a recording booth at a mall, the song got played for an executive at Uptown Records, and at 19, Blige was signed as the label’s youngest and first female artist.

After three years of session work, Blige recorded and released her debut album, “What’s the 411?” with 19-year-old Sean “Puffy” Combs serving as executive producer. “You Remind Me” became the album’s first breakout single and rode all the way to the top of the R&B charts and proved to be a musical springboard for Blige’s career.

In addition to her music, Blige has been dabbling in the acting world for about a dozen years with character roles on both television shows and in motion pictures. She recently completed production of the film version of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages.”



Marlon at: December 3, 2011 at 4:36 PM said...

She's a nine time Grammy award winner smh

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